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Johannesburg ranked among top cities supporting women

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Johannesburg and Nairobi are ranked among the top cities in the world which provide educational support and help foster the growth of women-owned businesses.

This is according to the Women Entrepreneur Cities (WE Cities) Index, conducted by Dell Technologies in partnership with IHS Markit.

The research looks at the top global cities’ ability to foster the growth of women-owned businesses, and ranks 50 cities on five characteristics: access to capital, technology, talent, culture and markets.

Johannesburg ranked at 36, while Nairobi was at 40, outperforming international hubs. Even though Johannesburg dropped slightly in the ranking from last year, its position is more indicative of the increasing competition to attract and support women entrepreneurs through venture capital firms and educational initiatives, according to the report.

The San Francisco Bay Area outranked New York for the number one spot, largely because it is one of the best places for women to gain access to capital, notes the study. It also moved from sixth place to second in culture, illustrating the high number of role models and public dialogue around diversity.

New York was followed by London, Boston and Los Angeles. Delhi ranked in last place, with Istanbul at 49 and Jakarta at 48.

“Johannesburg moved from 28 in 2017 to 36th place in 2019, while Nairobi moved from 33 to 40th place,” says Karen Campbell, HIS Markit consulting associate director, economics and country.

“While they both moved down, they overall improved – it was just that other cities improved more. Johannesburg performed particularly well, ranking in the top 10 for market policy as well as women’s skill and experience (talent pillar). It also improved greatly in the amount of funding on crowdfunding sites.

“Nairobi ranks in the top 10 for markets and the cost of its markets in particular. It is also top-ranked when it comes to funding women proportionately to men (capital pillar). It also improved greatly in the number of venture capital firms founded by women.”

Lack of funding, high cost of living, low representation of women in leadership roles and lack of government-led policies that support women entrepreneurs were among the barriers to women succeeding in their businesses globally.

According to the research, more than a quarter of boards of directors in Johannesburg have women on them, a distinction shared with London, Sydney and Tel Aviv.

Johannesburg ranked ninth for the best market in terms of operating environment. From a city and national level, policies for culture, technology and markets have also been put in place to enable upward mobility for female entrepreneurs. These, notes the report, include government goals for women-owned business procurement; policy for "equal remuneration for work of equal value" and presence of open data initiatives.

The study further found an overall improvement in the listed cities for women looking to establish and build their own businesses, but noted there is still significant room for progress.

Thirty out of 50 cities improved on more than half of their indicators, with Latin America and Europe seeing the highest percentage of their cities move up. The most-improved cities represent nearly every region, which indicates how broad-based the improvements have been around the world. Mexico City had the greatest improvement, ranking 45 in 2017 and 29 this year.

“Johannesburg is a business powerhouse, both in Africa and across the world,” says Doug Woolley, Dell EMC SA general manager.

“It’s also a giant melting-pot and is known for its cosmopolitan and progressive attitudes. These are some of the reasons why it is more attractive and welcoming to all entrepreneurs, including women. Its inclusion in the 2019 Women Entrepreneur Cities findings shows that significance, but it’s also a reminder that much more can be done.”

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